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Jack gets some action

Thesp joins DiCaprio, Damon on Scorsese's latest

GOOD MORNING: An enthusiastic Leonardo DiCaprio tells me that Jack Nicholson is joining him and Matt Damon in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” for WB, starting in April. Nicholson would play an Irish gang boss while the younger duo are opposing undercover cops. A femme costar is yet to be chosen to play a cop psychiatrist, Leo said. Nicholson tells me the role “could be interesting,” and admits he’s been “looking for a bad guy — I did three comedies.” And hasn’t been in front of the cameras for almost two years. He’s met with both Leo and Marty with whom he’s been friends “for many years and we’d been looking for something to do together.” And he worked with Matt Damon on a charity benefit show. As for playing a Boston Irishman, Nicholson laughs, “I won’t have to act much” … As of now, Jack has no plans to attend the Oscars. Meanwhile, of course, Leo and Marty are busy on the final roundup of awards: this Saturday, the SAG awards, and next week in London for BAFTA … The affable DiCaprio allows, “I love this movie (‘Aviator’). That’s why I’m supporting it.” He wound multiple appearances including a sensaysh stand Tuesday night with Jay Leno, which had the audience cheering him. When he was honored Sunday at the Santa Barbara fest, Jane Russell (“The Outlaw”) joined him. Leo told me he’d met with her before starting the film and was to use one of her reminiscences — she was trying to give Howard Hughes a kiss and had to chase him around a table. “We shot it with Ava Gardner instead, but it never made the cut,” Leo said. In view of his anxiety to do the film, I asked if he took a salary cut? He turned to Rick Yorn to pass on my question and came back with a laugh, saying “The same deal as my last three films — front and back end.” Apart from his commercial filmmaking, he still plans to make “a couple of documentaries on environmental issues that focus on global warming.” He did one in the ’90s … I also asked if he’d thought about the possibility of Warren Beatty ever making his Howard Hughes movie. ” I’ve never talked to him, but I think there’s a movie in Hughes’ later period — but hot as exciting. He succeeded the most when he was younger.” But as for any personal plans — like marrying his steady, model Gisele Bundchen — he politely said, “I have no wedding plans.”

JOANNE WOODWARD AND Paul Newman celebrated their 47th wedding anni and his 80th birthday Saturday in Westport, Conn. Guests were treated to a program by the Emerson String Quartet followed by a dinner at the Newmans’ home where the cake was in the shape of a racing car. Paul said he ate the entire grille. Today, he’s in Daytona readying to be a member of the four-man team driving in the 24-hour race this weekend. The success of their marriage? Joanne answered, “One reason is he makes me laugh every day” … Character actor Charles Lane, with credits of more than 700 roles in TV and movies, celebrated his 100th birthday, Jan. 26, at the Marriott in Marina del Rey. William Schallert presented an award from SAG … Carol Channing, who told me she’d never been given a birthday party, did indeed get a fabulous bash by Janet Salter and the BevHills Theatre Guild Monday at the BevHills Hotel’s Crystal Room. It was Carol’s 84th and she closed the star-studded show with a turn on the dance floor with her husband Harry Kullijian. She’d just returned from a Hawaii gig and is off to the Kennedy Center, Yuma, Ariz., San Diego, Boston and N.Y. Awards were also presented by Fay Kanin to wining playwrights. Monty Hall m.c’d the hefty program of performers. Among those toasting Carol was Carl Reiner, who’d just gotten a call to guestar in “Boston Public,” starting Monday. His role is like none you’ve seen the versatile Reiner play. I guarantee it!

THE SAG AWARDS will open with the following thesps giving a brief insight into the life of an actor: Alan Alda, Marsha Cross, Jennifer Garner, Dennis Haybert, John Spencer and Jessica Walter. Exec producer Jeff Margolis has set Julie Andrews (“Americanization of Emily”) and Mel Gibson (“Maverick”) to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to James Garner. Paul Giamatti will intro the “Sideways” seg, Leo and Cate Blanchett, the “Aviator” clip, Don Cheadle, “Hotel Rwanda,” young Freddie Highmore, “Finding Neverland.” Voting Screen Actors Guild members must return their completed ballots by noon PT today. … Pierre Cossette, who hosts his Super Bowl bash at Spago Sunday, will be toasted Monday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Pantages Theater … Eric Braeden was saluted Tuesday on his 25th year on “The Young and the Restless” with a bash at CBS TV City. Those toasting him included Les Moonves and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who guested on the show. He and Braeden are now talking a feature together … The Creative Coalition, along with Atlantic Monthly, hosted their dinner Wednesday night at the Peninsula Hotel during the president’s State of the Union speech. Joe Pantoliano is the Coalition president with supporters including Ed Asner, Lawrence Bender, HBO’s Colin Callender, Arianna Huffington … Rabbi Marvin Hier hosts a screening of docu short subject Oscar nominee “Sister Roses’ Passion” Monday at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. A Q&A follows with Hier and Sister Rose Thering, the Dominican nun who has spent the past 59 years combating anti-Semitism in Catholic doctrine.

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